HAVANA - For over 15 years Cuba has been developing a free-of-charge national cochlear implant program which has benefited around 270 children, especially deaf-blind children and those with multiple disabilities.
Dr. Beatriz Bermejo, a member of the National Cochlear Implant Group, told Prensa Latina that cochlear implants became available in 1998, the result of a joint effort with various other institutions, such as the National Institute of Neurosciences, La Pradera International Health Care Center and the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital in Havana.
According to a study conducted between 2001 and 2003, the national prevalence rate of hearing impairment is 2.1 per 1,000 inhabitants, the specialist explained.
Since 2005, 21 cochlear implants have been fitted and the procedure perfected by a group of multi-disciplined specialists comprising otolaryngologists, audiologists, neurophysiologists, neuro-pediatricians, logotherapists, psychologists, speech therapists and teachers, among others.
Dr. Bermejo, who is also in charge of the Speech and Language Therapy Department at La Pradera International Health Care Center in west Havana, pointed out that the national hearing screening program is available in various centers throughout the country, providing nationwide treatment, and covers all Cubans up to 18 years of age.
The expert stressed that their mission is to diagnose every child with the risk of impaired hearing at birth. With effective hearing screening and increasingly earlier detection (ideally before six months) of hearing impairment, the more successful the treatment is. She added that, in general, the younger children are when they receive implants the better their language and cognitive abilities develop.
The program comprises surgery, equipment programming and – if necessary - hearing rehabilitation; to improve patients’ diction, esthetics and tonality. It is a joint endeavor which has also benefited patients from Guinea and Venezuela, and could be extended to those in need in the rest of Latin America, the doctor stated.